Nov 29, 2010

The WAS Challenge, answered! One Brave Creative Director tells it like it is.

I never thought it would actually happen. You see, in my mind, no one reads us (no one writes comments... *snif*) and even less a Creative Director. So when I wrote the challenge, I already had the round of drinks on the betting table.

Well one brave soul decided to take me up on the challenge and bingo, we have the Creative Director who decided to tell it like it is. I have to tell you, this was the most interesting - and sometimes painfully true - reading I've done in quite a while.

What was the method used to write the questions? Alcohol. Yeah, I asked him all the questions us creatives yap about when we're out for a drink, mainly because we're angry at the agency/creative director/CEO/traffic bitch who gave the job days late/idiot client who didn't approve the cool concept. Since I've been at this a long time, I can remember vividly all the questions. (Below his answers are my comments.)

To the very cool CD that answered: Man, you made my day. Thank you so much for writing back to me. I did pay the rounds... Tequila!

So sit back, relax and enjoy the answers. And if you do have a CD who you think can actually write us, please send him/her this post and our email (


1) Do you sometimes give changes on a campaign and/or ask for it to be redone... simply because you don't like it, even if it's on strategy and could be approved by your client?

Answer: Sort of. I always want to give the client a few options, one of which should be right on strategy, exactly what they're looking for. Other options should reach outside and beyond what the client has asked for. Every deliverable is an opportunity to deepen the client relationship and continue to sell our services. Just because our client contact has given specific direction, their bosses and colleagues may be expecting something more. It's up to the creative team to think beyond the spec list.

As for making changes because I just "don't like" something, I usually give specific reasons for why something isn't working, and direction to get it on track. I have very good relationships with the members of our creative team, so they usual respect my opinion, and I respect theirs.

Me: This is very rare and good. In both mine and my friends experience, we've heard literally "I don't like it" and no decent answer after that. We have been left to try to imagine what the CD wanted. Pure hell.

2) Do you stay with your team if they have to work overtime, even if they don't need you for hours or do you leave and go play Golf or some other thing? If you do leave... do you feel guilty or not?

Answer: I almost always stay LATER than my team. I'm not just a Creative Director, but also a hands-on designer. I only ask the team for extra time if I'm already maxed out. This is something I should work on though, as it isn't fair to me either. Because of this, on the occasions I leave earlier I don't feel guilty.

Me: Damn! All the CD's we've met have no desire to write or design whatsoever. I even met one who didn't even have a computer in front of him. Also I've had CD's who design so bad and "old fashioned", I've had to ask nicely if I can design it again. Can you say awkward?

3) What things creatives do that REALLY annoy you beyond belief?

Answer: Here are my top 3 creative peeves: being rigid, being lazy, being uncooperative.

RIGID: "I've tried everything." Find ways to become inspired. I can't always be your motivational coach. Collaborate with other creatives, look at some online galleries, dare to try something different. Sometimes deliberately exploring some bad ideas will reveal something that actually works.

LAZY: "I don't know what to do." Please try to figure it out. I know carefully planning out exactly what I want and giving you paint-by-number instructions will make your job easier, but I need you to take a stab at it sometimes.

UNCOOPERATIVE: "I don't understand why we have to do this." Sometimes I just need you to trust me and move on with the task at hand. You don't always need to understand it or agree with it.

Me: All I can say is that sometimes we're tired and we need a break but we don't realize this, instead we go bananas or cry like a two year old. In my opinion, it's all about egos. I've seen creatives whine so that you don't change the concept. Sad but true.

4) Why do great creatives get fired instead of crappy ones? Is it all about money at the end?

Answer: Yes, it's all about the money in my experience. I've had no direct control over this, but I've seen it 3 ways:

1. Higher-paid employees are cut to save money and lower paid employees are asked to fill their roles. Not fair to the team.

2. Good people are cut (even lower paid ones) to save the jobs of folks in other areas of the company. Not fair to those cut.

3. Low-paid, "crappy" talent is hired instead of the right talent to fill a critical role. Not fair to anyone.

Me: I KNEW IT! YEAH! We have a confirmation!

5) Tell the truth. Have you presented something that you know is a total crap of an idea but you had no other choice? How did that feel? Is it the creative's fault or do you think you might have asked for more time to do something better?

Answer: Fortunately, no. I haven't had to try to sell something I thought was "total crap". However, I've presented things that the client felt was total crap. That sucks. Whoever is presenting the material should believe in it. If they don't, either the material needs to be modified (needing more time/resources) or whoever can defend it should be part of the presentation.

Me: Oh yeah. I've presented crap. Felt awesome when it got approved. You should try it.

6) Do you realize CD's, by nature, piss creatives off at least 65% of the time? You know. You change stuff, you make us do "wittier" lines... difficult things. Do you live with that fact ok or does it bother you?

Answer: Let me answer this one with a question: Do you realize you are being paid change stuff, make wittier lines, and do difficult things? You're paid to be part of the process, not to just deliver a piece of creative. Otherwise you'd be a fine artist (probably a starving one), creating whatever it is you want, on your terms, and then hoping someone comes along and pays for it. If it pisses you off then it's your problem, unless you become rigid, lazy, or uncooperative (see answer #3).

Me: * pouting * Ok. But... but... I need a raise! (You have a point. Argh!)

7) What have you done to NOT be the Creative Director you had previously that you just can't stand?

Answer: I don't use fear as a motivator. A previous boss of mine controlled with fear and punishment. It's a terrible way to motivate and almost impossible to establish lasting respect.

Me: Can I add that you never shout at us? We already left our moms and dads. (I told you, previous horrible experience)

8) Why do you not buy other things that pizza when we are working late? Do you think that if a creative team is going to work overtime the agency SHOULD buy very decent food?

Answer: Can't say I'm guilty of this one, but what's wrong with pizza? Would Chinese be OK?

Me: NO! No more chinese either! We want decent sandwiches... french food... SUSHI! We want decent sushi!

9) Do you agree that if we work after 11pm that we deserve beers as well?

Answer: In my experience alcohol and productivity don't mix well. Perhaps a post-project celebratory lunch would be cool, beers included. I'm personally not much of a drinker though.

Me: A Creative Director that doesn't drink? Weird. Well, think about buying us beer at some point. The pain of working late goes away and you can ask for a bunch of witty lines. We won't give you grief when we have a nice buzz.

10) Have you ever boldly gone where no CD should go? And yes, we mean have you ever banged a creative. Or thought of it.

Answer: No, I'm married. But if I wasn't, I'm not sure I'd get along well with another creative anyway. Maybe I'd just fool around a bit, just to see how deep creativity really goes. ;-)

Me: I know so many stories about this... way too much information for one post only. :-)

Bonus question: When is it ok to say NO to a client with an impossible deadline? Or do you just ignore the fact that sometimes you need time and deliver the best crap your team can do in that allowed time?

Answer: I/you/we NEED to say "no" when faced with an impossible deadline. Delivering crap should not be a solution. However, sometimes it's not up to us. Sometimes it's an executive, or the sales team, or an account manager that makes the promise to the client, and the creative team has to make good on it. It's a bad spot to be in. Sometimes we can fight the internal battle, but unfortunately it's part of the business.

Me: And don't you wish we could kick them in the balls when they promise absurd deadlines? I mean... a good kick, right in there. The ones that make them go temporarily unable to reproduce? Yeah...


RestrictionsApply said...

Questions I would have liked to see the CD answer:

• Please clarify the main role of the CD: come up with good ideas? Inspire his subordinates to do their best? Run a solid department, on budget?

• How important are awards? Do they bring more clients to the agency? Do clients care about the award their ad won or the business it generated?

• Where do you draw the line between working for an award or making the client happy?

• What happens to most Creatives after the age of 35? Where do they go?

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